|that the apostle John had written the revelation but that it was devoid of divine inspiration. "It is not," he stated, "an infallible source of teaching but a misuse of it if people decide to build a basis for doctrine upon it." (See V.12 no.18.) Unfortunately his declarations found much approval with many members of the Altenburg congregation. For some it was a welcome means of combating so-called chiliasm. The invalidity of this holy book became the topic of parlor and nursery gossip. Earnest Christian sensibility was so profoundly disturbed and corrupted by this declaration that simple faith was poisoned with doubt in both the young and the old. I found myself compelled by conscience to deliver a sermon on the validity of St. John's Revelation on the day of Pentacost and to warn my congregation against allowing itself to be confused by the doubts raised by the article. The Book of Revelation so powerfully shows evidence of its divine source that it would be necessary to believe its author was a crazed fanatic or a vile deceiver before one could dispute its divine provenance. Under any other circumstances it would have seemed reasonable to all, who cherish the word. However here it yielded unwelcome results. One side saw it as an apology in defense of chiliasm although this was in no way the objective of the sermon. The other side saw it as an expression of bitter rage against the anti-chiliastic verdict of the synod. On the following Friday the chairman of the congregation came to my house and requested I repeat this sermon from the pulpit. I decided to deny this request but declared I was prepared to set down the reasons, which compelled me to deliver this sermon, at the next meeting of the congregation. The meeting was held and oh, what a storm of bitter resentment resounded as people reproached me. Some said such a sermon should not have been delivered from the pulpit. I had overstepped the order of Christian discipline; I had secretly wanted the editor of The Lutheran punished for writing something inappropriate; I had|
|assailed the synod and The Lutheran and robbed the congregation of its feastday. It was quite some time before I could get a word in. Finally the crowd was quieted by a few words from an administrator. He said they must listen to the pastor if he wished to answer. From the older dogma of our church I presented teaching from the works of Johann Gerhard, which showed the powerful grounding of St. John's Revelation in divine inspiration. Duty called upon me as spiritual caregiver to give instruction on this work and to warn the congregation not to give into doubt. I showed that I had disparaged neither the synod nor The Lutheran but had merely called The Lutheran to task for shedding dubious light on the subject. These words had their impact and the crowd quietly decided that I need only print a retraction to a statement I made concerning Röbbelen's article in the journal. I did this. A few weeks passed peacefully until the next congregational meeting. Then the old subject came up again and the reprimands over the Pentacost sermon renewed with great bitterness. One person said the pastor had robbed him of his trust in Luther; another stated the pastor had sown the seeds of mistrust in the synod; a third said the pastor no longer delivered blessings from the pulpit. People remained by their assertions that the pastor had committed sin and evil with this sermon. He must recognize this and atone for it. In the interim St. Louis became aware of the problem. Even the president of the joint synod, Wyneken heard about it and he wrote to me for details. I reported the entire incident to him and added a copy of the pertinent passages from the Pentacost sermon. By commission of the president of the joint synod, Professor Biewend and Pastor Schaller were sent to Altenburg in August. First they spoke with me and my opponents alone. Then the two deputies investigated the matter by holding back to back congregational meetings. People were united on the following points:|
1. We acknowledge the Revelation of St. John as canonical; that is, it is endowed by the Holy Spirit.
2. The article in no. 18 of The Lutheran certainly did not acknowledge that the Revelation of St. John was a proscribed plumbline of faith whereas the authors of previous articles in earlier issues of The Lutheran did acknowledge it as endowed by the Holy Spirit. One must admit there is a contradiction here on the part of the author and he must be told about the errors in issue 18.
3. Pastor Schieferdecker did not commit an error by defending the canonical nature of St. John's Revelation. He was right to defend it from the pulpit however the way in which he presented his defense was not done in a charitable manner.
On the afternoon of the same day the following agreements were reached:
1. Pastor Schieferdecker promised not to publically preach about disputed prophetic teachings or intentionally spread his personal opinions.
2. Neither those, who believe they must hold to a certain form of chiliasm, nor those, who have no beliefs on the subject, shall be made under pain of conscience to speak of them. People should not dispute or quarrel about this issue.
Everyone in the congregation was happy with these resolutions and everyone thanked and praised God for the peaceful settlement of the dispute. Six weeks passed in seeming peace and tranquility. I kept my promise and avoided speaking about it, even in private, whenever possible. It seemed peace had returned to the congregation. However the next congregational meeting changed everything. As the recorded proceedings of the last meeting were read, as is customary, the school teacher mentioned he would like to have the pastor's promise, not to spread his opinions, added to the protocol so it would contain better information. Many others stepped forward and declared, the resolutions of the previous meeting had been voluntarily accepted by all; it had been sealed with a prayer and with praise and thanks to God.
That peace should not be disturbed. Then unfortunately the words of one gray-headed man in the assembly were heard: It was a false peace; the men from St. Louis were Melanchthonians and had only sewn a patch on an old piece of clothing. The situation ignited and once against everything was in smoldering flames. To restore peace I declared I would gladly include my instructions in the protocol but then everyone else should do the same. In that way God would bestow His grace upon us and everyone would come to know the truth. The declaration was in vain. Finally I offered a suggestion: Because it was impossible for the congregation to reach a decision amid such upheaval, it should elect a committee made up of men from both sides to consider what to do about this situation. The suggestion was accepted and a committee was chosen. Four members declared definitively that they were not going to think any more about the dispute since the matter had already been brought to a peaceful solution through the arbitration of Pastor Schaller and Professor Biewend. At the next congregational meeting they submitted a written explanation to be recorded in the protocol.
"The undersigned committee members agree to stand by the resolutions established through the arbitration of the 2 ministers of the Honorable Synod of St. Louis and adopted by vote by the entire congregation for the reinstatement of the peace, which had been broken because of differences related to Röbbelen's article concerning St. John's Revelation and Pastor Schieferdecker's refutation in the sermon on the first day of Pentacost. We recognize that the following 4 points set down by the entire congregation were accepted without reservation and thus we deem that they are binding:
1. St. John's Revelation has been acknowledged as a canonical and divine book; in contrast
2. The article published by Pastor Röbbelen in no. 18 of The Lutheran is in error.
3. Pastor Schieferdecker had the right and the duty
to openly testify to his objections concerning this article from the pulpit; his only mistake was his lack of charity in the manner he delivered his sermon.
4. The pastor has given his promise not to publically teach about chiliasm or intentionally spread his personal opinions.
With God's help we will abide by these 4 points and we will not enter into further discussion or disputation with those who are no longer at peace with the resolutions.
Altenburg, October 5, 1856.
The dear reader may decide for himself who wanted and worked for peace. The preceding statement gave clear voice to their open and honest intentions towards peace. The pastor and a large portion of the congregation heartily agreed with it. No one could say that I had broken the peace. I had neither attempted publically nor privately to force my opinions upon anyone regarding prophetic doctrine and yet there was no peace. In the other group there was a large number of people who were honest but who were intellectually limited and led to confusion by human agents. They were not happy that the pastor had not formally and ceremoniously renounced his so-called chiliastic convictions. Dark fanatacism arose and there was so much screaming and crying that I gave warning, using many useless words to restore peace and order to those at the meeting who rejected the above declaration. I finally felt compelled to leave the meeting, stating as I left, "The honor of my holy office forbids me to stay at such a meeting any longer." Shortly thereafter an administrator of the congregation was sent to my house to request my return to the meeting. I returned — peace had been restored
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